Long-Term Planning was the Only Agenda Item

August 5, 2016

 

by Len Lathrop

It was a different type of board of selectmen meeting that convened on Aug. 2.  The selectmen were joined by all department heads and senior staff of the Town of Hudson in a meeting that Selectmen Ted Luszey had spoken about as soon as he was elected chairman of the board in March.

It was apparent that everyone knew what the goals of the meeting were as two large lined sheets of poster paper were on the wall with carefully lettered areas of discussion.  As an introduction Luszey explained that it was an open conversation to get the Hudson Board of Selectmen and the department heads to talk about key issues with the beginning goal to build a road map for department heads and board members to guide the town for the next five to 25 years.  The intent was to help the taxpayers be aware of the issues that Hudson will face during that time.

To begin the discussion Luszey called on Fire Chief Buxton, as the approval of a new fire station to replace the Burns Hill Station had been rejected in the last two town elections.  Buxton spoke of how the project was defeated by only 138 votes in the last balloting, how the current station is plagued by its size and the lack of facilities for both male and female firefighters; the building current houses three firefighters on their 24-hour shifts.  Luszey mentioned that the fire service building project is an explanation of why a 25-year plan is needed.  Hudson has buildings that are at their end of life usefulness and construction on the central station is underway.  If the modernization to central station adds 10 to 15 years to it lifespan and the time frame for a new Lowell Road Station is four to five years after votes approve the project, the reality exists that there will always be a fire station needing to be repaired or replaced as the Robinson Road Station is getting older.

Luszey asked the group to help him and the town to plan for that type of need.  Assistant Assessor Jim Michard asked about the capital improvement plan and town master plan.  Discussion indicated that a Capital Improvement Plan was a wish list and projects were just put on the list.  Police Chief Lavoie, pointed out that CIP required cost projection, and many times, to get those costs studies, money had to be budgeted and approved.  He questioned how could he ask for maybe $75,000 to study and prepare a proposal for CIP for a different location for the police station when budgets are held to a zero percent increase.  Luszey pointed out that CIP doesn’t address the working infrastructure needs and the voters more than anything else want safety and well being; those are the issues that most board members hear about.

Luzsey mentioned that there was no updated public document relative to a master plan and he mentioned talk about a centralized municipal complex.  Selectman McGrath wanted to talk about more centralized traffic patterns and to hear from the town planner and engineer.  Planner John Cashell began by mentioning some number that the engineer had gathered for this meeting.  He wanted to talk about a centralized town center and pointed to the Benson property as it borders on Route 111 near the intersection of Greeley and Central streets.  Cashell saw this as where the original town center was and an ideal place for a complex, but, of course, the state would have to approve it as it is part of the land under the Benson Park deed, formed when the Town of Hudson purchased the property from the state.  Cashell mentioned this was part of the last master plan study done a while ago, which Jim Michaud had in hand and pointed out had occurred in 2008.

Cashell moved on to talk about the traffic on Lowell Road by the Sagamore Bridge and also the idea being called the Circumferential Highway, where drivers could go from the Sagamore Bridge and the Wason and Lowell Road area to Route 111.  Town Engineer Elvis Dhima had made some phone calls prior to the meeting and had an estimate from a local consulting firm to just do the study, and that would cost $150,000 with an a rough estimate of cost based on what it cost the City of Nashua to build the Broad Street Parkway.  Dhima mentioned a price tag of $155 million as the seven-mile distance would need to have six intersections, six bridges over roadways and two bridges over bodies of water.  When road improvements were being bantered around Cashell also mentioned a plan that redesigns the Lowell Road intersection with Wason Road and Sagamore Bridge to add another right hand turn onto the bridge.  The cost was discussed; Cashell had some funding sources to help, but the general comment was that was a lot of money.  Members of the meeting couldn’t see how that addresses the north bound traffic.  Four lanes in each direction all the way to Central Street had a price tag of about $100 million based on a Dhima estimate.

As the town has looked at economic development, whether residential or commercial, the issue of water and sewer availability has always muddied the waters, to the point that several years ago the large distribution center looking at the Friary property choose a different location as Hudson could not offer the water and sewer that they wanted.  Dhima explained that both utility issues were moot points.  Relative to water, the town simply could purchase more water from Pennichuck corporation and, with some of the improvements that Pennichuck is debating to service the contaminated wells in Litchfield, a second main line could be installed under the bridge to service them, freeing up some of the well capacities that Hudson owns.  Water should even be an issue to development in Hudson; relative to the water system some improvements need to be made, mostly to the undersized pipes in some areas of the town.

Regarding sewer, Dhima explained that every parcel of land in the Hudson Sewer District has an allotment assigned to it and currently he believes that is 27,000 gallons of excess capacity that Hudson owns in the Nashua Treatment Plant.  Sewer treatment is a business, as Dhima explained, and business can always negotiate to make things happen.

Look to next week’s edition of your HLN for continued coverage of the selectmen’s meeting.  It was a great beginning to a long-term vision for the town